Language Variation and Change Workshop

February 7, 2020 | 3:30PM
Rosenwald 301

Deixis and the linguistic anthropology of cinema
Constantine Nakassis, University of Chicago 

As a contribution to what I am calling "a linguistic anthropology of cinema," in this paper I explore the question of deixis in linguistic and cinematic discourse, exploring some of the semiotic functions and processes that are common to both. In particular, I focus on what Silverstein calls metapragmatic calibration types (reflexive, reportive, nomic) and the particular, but not unique, insight of how they intersect and play off of each other in south Indian fictional film. Through an analysis of a particular scene in the 1997 Tamil film, Arunachalam (dir. Sundar C.), its uptake among fans of the film's hero (Rajinikanth), and the televisual narration by one of the main actresses of the film's shooting and its subsequent uptake, I show how one and the same deictic form may be simultaneously calibrated in multiple ways to performative effect. While film semiotics has long taken linguistic models to think about filmic form (viz "film language"), this analysis suggests the way in which an ethnographic analysis of cinematic discourse, on and off the screen, contributes to a more encompassing semiotic (to wit, linguistic anthropological) analysis of language and its indexical functions.